The first step in your financial planning will guide you through your decision-making.
Today I’d like to talk about the most important first step in the personal financial planning process. This might be a little surprising, but this step is far more important than how much you’re saving, or how you’re investing your retirement plan money, or thinking through your debt situation. These other things are driven by this first step. And it all becomes much easier if you can get this first step right.
So, here it is; the first step to handling money is to understand and “drill down” on your mission statement. In other words, it’s critical that we clarify who we are and what we want, because it’s what’s deep inside us that drives everything, and people usually get what they focus on and pursue. In other words, we must understand our values and priorities. If we don’t figure this out, we will meander through life making decisions based on impulse and weakness. So, if you’re looking for a step by step financial planning process, step one is to search for your core values.
We all have a mission statement
Now, before we go on, I need to say that we all have a mission statement or a purpose statement. While you may not have thought about this, we all have a set of beliefs and values that steer our lives and determine our decisions and how we think about money. And you can get a good idea of your mission statement by looking at how you spend your time and how you spend your money.
I was talking to a fellow some time ago who has a financial mess on his hands. He has a home and vehicles and a few hobby-related assets that cost him money – and almost everything has been used as collateral, so he’s really in debt, and his income is being stretched, and he’s really under stress because of it. He may lose everything. And all of this is not because circumstances were unfavorable, it’s because of bad decisions due to a bad mission statement. What he embraced as important has led to the decisions that are now crushing him.
So the question is, what is your mission statement? What is that core, driving purpose in your life that connects to your decision making?
Examples to consider
As those who are trusting in Jesus, we have all been given a new and magnificent purpose in Christ. And this calling should resonate with us. If we look to Scripture, we can find lots of statements that can help us see this. Here’s what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth:
… [Jesus] died for all (that’s the gospel), that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. – 2 Corinthians 5:15
Paul said that the gospel creates people who have changed from living for self to living for Jesus. So I could adopt a governing purpose-statement that says, “I’m here to live for Jesus in every decision I make.” Just think of how that would impact our finances. Before I buy a house or plan a vacation or buy a car or think about college or retirement or a job, my top priority would be living for Jesus.
This goal would naturally drive me to find out exactly what – as a disciple – I should be doing and how I should be doing it. In the book of Romans, we find Paul putting in in different words:
…you also have died to the law through the body of Christ (that’s the gospel), so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. – Romans 7:4
So, again, we see that the gospel creates people who produce fruit for God. I could have a governing statement that says, “I’m here to bear fruit for God.”. And now I can think about my financial decisions by asking the question, “Does doing this or that connect with fruit-bearing or will it get in the way?”
Think for yourself
So, think with me for a minute. What are the core values that move your financial planning process forward? What are the core values that guide you through your decisions? I’m not asking what your mission should be but what your purpose is. Where are you going? What is driving your dreams?
As the first step in our planning we should prayerfully think through and affirm the values that drive our decisions. In this affirmation you will be better equipped to move down the right path.
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